Judge and jury were 'seriously misled' by police

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The Independent Online
A 'CATALOGUE of criticism and exposures' surrounding police evidence constituted an overwhelming case for freeing two brothers convicted of murdering a woman, the Court of Appeal said yesterday.

The original trial and first appeal of Wayne and Paul Darvell, from Swansea, had been 'seriously misled' about the reliability of police interviews, it added.

Giving a reserve judgment following the release of the two earlier this month, Lord Taylor, the Lord Chief Justice, said the 'devasting implications' of scientific evidence showed that police records of interviews with Wayne Darvell had been changed, often from leading questions into apparent admissions that his brother had committed the murder. 'No confidence in the truth or accuracy of the record can survive it,' Lord Taylor said.

The Lord Chief Justice continued: 'Fresh evidence shows that judge, jury and this court . . . were seriously misled as to the reliability of the records. That being so, the integrity of the whole conduct of the original police investigation is thrown into grave doubt.' But these were only one of a number of factors which had led the court to quash the convictions.

Lord Taylor, sitting with Mr Justice Swinton Thomas and Mr Justice Judge, apologised to the Darvells for their 'ordeal'. Paul Darvell, 30, was sentenced to 20 years and his brother, 31, to 15 years at Swansea Crown Court in 1986 for the murder of a sex shop manageress the previous year.

The judgment also praised the efforts of Rough Justice, the BBC television programme, and Justice, the legal reform group, who first raised doubts about the case. This led to an inquiry by Devon and Cornwall Police which uncovered evidence on which the brothers' second appeal was founded.

The Devon and Cornwall inquiry, which examined 3,500 court files, disclosed that detectives at Swansea police station had allegedly altered notes and interview records in the cases of more than 40 individuals.

The Crown Prosecution Service is considering whether detectives in the Darvell case should be charged. Seven officers have been suspended.

Lord Taylor said the judgment was restricted because of the possibility of prosecutions. 'Suffice it to say that this has been a thoroughly disquieting case,' he said.

The judgment accepted all the points raised by lawyers for the two brothers at the appeal, which was not contested. It heard that Esda testing showed that notes of interviews with Wayne Darvell had been doctored and were not contemporaneous, as detectives had sworn in court; they had been compiled long afterwards and the originals destroyed; and one detective was found to have made notes in a book not issued until three months later.

Substantial amounts of scientific evidence, including the existence of a palm print in blood which excluded the two men, were also not given to defence lawyers at the original trial.